5 Goals for Good Health

Developing and maintaining good health need not be difficult. Take steps to achieve these goals that will be the basis of a healthy eating plan and pave the way to better health in the long term. Overall, the goal is to have a healthy lifestyle all year which is so much better for our health than embarking on a short-term diet for a week or two every summer.

Changing how, when and what we eat can help us to look and feel better, provide us with the energy we need to be happy and productive, as well as stave off all manner of illness. When considering ways to improve our eating habits we should think about mealtimes, snacks and drinks, our choices at the supermarket, the recipes we use at home and eating out.

Choose healthy meals – what do healthy meals look like?

Foods from each of the five food groups can be eaten throughout the day. Eating a wide variety of foods will provide the important nutrients we need for good health.

See the Eatwell Guide for information on eating a variety of foods.

For example, a main meal might include:

  • Lean protein – like chicken, fish, eggs or tofu
  • Starchy carbohydrates – such as a small baked potato, brown rice or a wholemeal roll – choose wholemeal or wholegrain options whenever possible
  • Vegetables – try broccoli, spinach or a salad

When shopping at the supermarket choose foods that will make it possible to prepare healthy meals and snacks at home. I like to look out for recipes that encourage me to use ingredients that I haven’t tried before, like different beans and pulses, since I am currently trying to eat less meat for health and sustainability reasons. When eating out choose meals that include proteins and vegetables – for example, a Sunday Roast at the pub is a great choice.

Maintain your energy levels

When we eat the right foods and drink plenty of fluids we can sustain good energy levels throughout the day. A good variety of foods will include a combination of  protein, complex carbohydrates and fibre – for example:

  • Breakfast – wholegrain cereal with milk, fruit, juice, tea or coffee
  • Lunch – an egg sandwich made with wholemeal bread, yoghurt, fruit, water
  • Dinner – Jacket potato with beans and side salad, fruit, water, tea or coffee

Healthy snacks between meals may help us to avoid hunger, fatigue, food cravings and energy slumps. Healthy snacks should consist of a drink and a small amount of food that also incorporates a combination of  protein, complex carbohydrates and fibre – for example:

  • fruit, a small piece of cheese, water, tea or coffee
  • crackers with homous or nut butter, vegetable crudités (eg cucumber or carrots), water, tea or coffee

Keeping your fluid intake consistently high is a surprisingly effective way to maintain your energy levels, so we should aim to drink at least two litres of fluid every day (includes water, milk, juice, tea, coffee).

Eat a proper breakfast

Don’t skip breakfast since your energy levels will already be low after a night’s sleep.

Eat a healthy, filling breakfast that includes protein – such as milk, yoghurt, nuts and seeds, beans, eggs, or meat. Don’t forget your starchy carbohydrates and fibre, as found in cereal, muesli, porridge or wholemeal toast. Whenever possible avoid highly processed foods with added sugar (such as some breakfast cereals).

When short on time grab a yoghurt and fruit before leaving the house and eat these while travelling or at work.

Choose good fats for great health

Some fats are beneficial to the body and it is necessary to have fat in our diet for optimal health, including good hair, skin, nails and a well-functioning body.

Healthy fats are naturally found in a range of foods, including:

  • Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna steaks, trout, and sardines)
  • Avocadoes
  • Olives
  • Raw nuts and their oils (eg: walnut oil)
  • Seeds
  • Wheatgerm

Choose healthy fats instead of saturated fats (like butter) for better health.

Treat yourself occasionally

If you choose healthy options at least 80 percent of the time it is possible to eat the occasional dessert or enjoy a party without feeling guilty. If there are times when chocolate becomes a necessity, have a few squares of good quality dark chocolate – preferably with more than 70% cocoa (the higher the cocoa content, the lower the sugar and fat content).

As long as treats are occasional (that is, not every day) and do not become a habit, we can indulge occasionally.

Learning about healthier options and establishing good eating habits can help us to develop and maintain better health. The goal of good health is within our reach.

Enjoy Good Food for Good Health

Boost your energy levels

Eating good food (full of nutrients) regularly can give you the energy you need to undertake your day-to-day activities, as well as the extra energy needed for socializing or exercising.

Could you make some simple changes to your daily routine to boost your energy levels?

Top energy-boosting tips

1. Don’t skip breakfast

By the time you wake up in the morning your body has been without food for many hours, so it will need some fuel to recharge. Eat breakfast to re-fuel and to stop your energy levels from dropping even further during the morning. Breakfast will give your body an immediate energy boost and give you a good start for the rest of the day.

Good breakfast choices include:

  • a bowl of breakfast cereal with semi-skimmed milk and a 150ml glass of fruit juice – try to choose a breakfast cereal that is high in fibre and low in sugar and salt
  • porridge made with semi-skimmed milk and topped with fresh or dried fruit
  • a boiled egg with toast and a banana
  • fruit smoothie

2. Eat regularly

Try to eat three meals a day and top-up with healthy snacks between meals if you start to get peckish. Lunch3

Healthy snacks include:

  • Fruit – choose fresh, dried, canned or frozen
  • Flavoured yoghurt or milk
  • Cereal bar or oatcakes
  • Fruit buns, fruit loaf or malt loaf

3. Eat foods rich in iron

Eat iron-rich foods so that the body can make haemoglobin, the red pigment in our blood, which carries oxygen to cells around the body. Females need more iron than males.

Iron-rich foods include:

  • red meat – such as beef or lamb
  • breakfast cereals – many cereals have iron added (see the nutrition panel on the cereal box)
  • dried fruit – such as apricots and raisins
  • nuts and seeds – such as cashews and almonds
  • lentils, peas and beans – including baked beans

4. Keep well hydrated

If you sweat during everyday activities, such as shopping or childcare, this loss of fluids could cause dehydration. Sweat during exercise will certainly cause dehydration if the lost fluids are not replaced.

By the time you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated. Everyone should drink 6-8 glasses (1.2 litres) of fluid each day to avoid dehydration – more will be required during hot weather or exercise. Choose quick and easy drinks like water, tea, coffee, semi-skimmed milk, or sugar-free fruit squash to avoid dehydration. It’s not necessary to drink sports drinks if you are participating in activity. Fruit juice mixed with water, well diluted fruit squashes or juice drinks provide hydration and energy.

Making just a few simple changes to your daily routine could provide you with all of the energy you need for each and every busy day in your schedule.

Enjoy Good Food for Good Health

Easy ways to get your 5-a-day

In case you have hidden under a rock for a few years, I will mention the recommendation that we eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables  each day for good health. To make it clear that’s 5-a-day in total – such as, two fruit and three veg.

A portion is about the size of a handful or a tennis ball (80-100g) – such as an apple, banana or 6 brussel sprouts. A portion for a child is the size of their handful (perhaps a golfball size).To make sure that we get a variety of nutrients, 5-a-day also means eating 5 different fruit and veg each day and 5 differently coloured fruit and veg (like strawberries, apricots and spinach). Potatoes give us energy and so are not counted as one of our 5-a-day.

To meet the 5-a-day target, try to eat fruit or veg for most meals and snacks. There are so many choices and so many ways to include fruit and veg in your diet – here are a few examples:

  • Try to start the day with some fruit – I like to have a banana or a few dried apricots with my morning coffee
  • Breakfast – sprinkle a tablespoon of dried fruit onto your cereal (instead of sugar), have sliced banana on toast (delicious with a drizzle of honey), mix fruit into some yoghurt, make a smoothie, or have some juice
  • Morning snack – try carrots or celery with homous or guacamole (these dips also count towards your 5-a-day)
  • Lunch – try to include some salad or vegetables – choose soup with vegetables, munch on some cherry tomatoes, have a juice or smoothie, or finish with some fruit
  • Afternoon snack – chopped or dried fruit with some nuts (nuts contain protein so will help fill you up until dinner time)
  • Dinner – try to include salad, vegetables or finish with some fruit

Choose fruits and vegetables that you like and that you would be happy to eat regularly. Remember that canned, frozen and dried fruit and vegetables count towards your 5-a-day, and these are good choices which may overcome concerns about the prices or wastage of fresh fruits and veg.